Emotional Disturbance

Strategies

It is important to implement strategies that address the needs of the individual.  We recommend that you apply these strategies across home, school, and community contexts.

Go to the Site Map for a full list of resources and activities!

Learning and Academics                
  • Post a general class schedule that indicates what students should be expected to do as they enter your classroom, when homework is collected, etc.
  • Before your students enter class, write on the board what will happen during that specific class period and how long each activity will take. 
  • Develop and maintain an active schedule with evenly intermixed direction instruction, individual seatwork, and cooperative learning activities.    
  • To prevent student frustration, intersperse more challenging, acquisition-oriented learning activities with review / maintenance-enhancing activities. 
  • Provide time for the student to catch up on missed work or to review concepts that they are struggling with. 
  • If the student enters your classroom just after lunch or physical education, it may be necessary to first engage them in a lively class discussion to appropriately “channel” excess distractibility or hyperactivity.
  • Use self-monitoring checklists that the student can use to check off activities as completed.
  • Break assignments into “chunks” to avoid overwhelming the student.
  • Seat student in close proximity to teacher, towards front of the room.
  • Provide additional review.
  • Teach self-monitoring for attention.
  • Use separate setting and/or extended time for exams and tests if needed.
  • Explicitly teach test-taking strategies.
  • Explicitly teach organizational skills (use of planners, notebooks, folders, checklists).
  • Ask previous teachers about techniques that were effective with the student in the past.
  • Anticipate classroom situations where the student's emotional state may be vulnerable.
  • Be aware of how the student communicates.
  • Keep instructions simple and very structured.
  • Provide opportunities for group participation.
  • Keep classroom organized.
  • Serve as a model for the students.
  • Provide structure in classroom with regard to physical features of the room, scheduling, routines, and rules of conduct.
  • Clearly distinguish time, place, and expectations during unstructured activities.
  • Let students know your expectations.
  • Provide students with clearly stated learning objectives.
  • Use visual supports to supplement verbally delivered instructions and information.
  • Seek input from student about his / her strengths and weaknesses.
  • Modify classroom activities to meet the learning needs of the student, while maintaining the same learning objectives.
  • Be sensitive when pairing students together.
  • Keep activity instructions simple but structured.
  • Acknowledge contributions of student.
  • Be aware of student's socialization skills when asking for participation.
  • Make a plan with student to replace inappropriate responses with appropriate responses.
  • Work gradually toward group activities.
  • Target and teach behaviors such as taking turns, working with partners, and following directions.
  • Demonstrate and reward appropriate reading.
  • Review and discuss with the student all of the steps involved in activity.
  • Give clear examples of what the student should expect with an activity or project.
  • Prepare alternative activities that the student can work on independently.
  • Collect a portfolio of work samples from the student.
  • Teach student how to attribute successes to effective strategy use and effort.
  • Monitor student progress through informal assessment.
  • Self-monitoring techniques can be used in the school setting. Self-monitoring of attention involves signals to the student to determine how much attention is being paid to a task. This can be done using a signal such as a random beep, timer, or cue provided by the teacher. The student then records on or off task behavior on a recording sheet. Self-monitoring techniques can be tied to rewards and accuracy checks.

Socialization
  • Explicitly and frequently teach social rules and skills.
  • Model appropriate responses to social situations.
  • Engage student in role-play opportunities to practice appropriate responses.
  • Explain rules / rationales behind social exchanges.
  • Target perspective-taking skills.
  • Teach student to accurately label his / her own emotions.
  • Teach student to accurately label the emotional status of others (based on facial cues, verbal cues, etc.).
  • Be aware of and control for teachers, aides, and students with whom the student interacts negatively.

Behavior
  • Arrange observation and data collection system to monitor student’s behavior across all school contexts.
  • Use data to inform decision-making.
  • Regularly communicate with family members and teachers to ensure consistent response to student’s behavior.
  • Model tolerance and acceptance.
  • Provide opportunities for the student to assume responsibilities, such as distributing papers.
  • Teach other students to ignore inappropriate attention-seeking behaviors.
  • Have other students (who demonstrate appropriate behavior) serve as peer tutors.
  • Be aware that some students may work better alone.
  • Develop rules that are clear (and give concrete examples).
  • Specify rewards for following rules, as well as consequences when rules are disobeyed.
  • Be consistent when enforcing rules, emphasize positive over punitive.
  • Model responses to potential triggers for escalation.
  • Engage student in role-play opportunities to practice appropriate responses.
  • Provide models of acceptable behaviors.
  • Respond to the student, not to their behavior.
  • Use positive and age-appropriate comments frequently to reinforce good behavior.
  • Teach students to monitor their own behavior.
  • Use individualized behavioral contracts with the student.
  • Monitor seating arrangements in the classroom.
  • Teach student to identify signs of stress, anxiety, anger, etc.
  • Be aware of the student’s triggers for anger, stress, and anxiety.
  • Use visual organizers to help student evaluate appropriate alternatives to maladaptive behavior.
  • Teach student to describe the conflict or problem, identify possible responses, select a response, and evaluate the selected response.
  •  “Think out loud” as you generate alternatives and select a response. 
  • Provide subtle pre-corrective prompts in situations where the student has often displayed interpersonal relationship problems in the past.
  • Use visual scales to help the student label escalating emotions (e.g. 1-5 scales, Volcano scale).
  • Teach and practice coping strategies to reduce anxiety, stress, anger, etc.
  • Develop a coping plan; rehearse plan with student when they are calm.
  • Keep potentially harmful objects or substances out of reach.
  • Use time-out sessions to cool off disruptive behavior.
  • Make sure the punishment fits the "crime."
  • Immediately praise good behavior and performance.
  • Pre-establish consequences for misbehavior with student.
  • Administer consequences immediately.
  • Withhold reinforcement for inappropriate behavior.
  • Recognize signs of escalation.
  • Remain calm, state misconduct, and avoid debating or arguing with student.
  • Ask student for reward ideas.
  • Change rewards if they are not effective in changing behavior.
  • Develop a schedule for using positive reinforcement; work to thin that schedule of reinforcement over time.
  • Work for overall improvement, which may be slow.
  • If student has a desire for attention, find ways to recognize positive contributions.
  • If student shows aggressiveness, being in charge of an activity may reduce aggressiveness.
  • Set goals with the student that can realistically be achieved.
  • Set up a special time-out location, so student has a place to go to take a break (could be a quick trip to the restroom or water fountain).
  • Behavior management techniques can be used in the home, school, and community settings. Functional Behavior Assessments/Behavior Intervention Plans can be created by examining a student's specific problem behavior, identifying antecedents, understanding consequences that maintain the behavior, and developing strategies to reduce the inappropriate behavior and increase desirable behavior. 

Affective Characteristics 
  • Regularly communicate with family members, guidance counselors, community-based service providers, counselors, etc.
  • Be aware of fears (through communication with the student, teachers, and parents). 
  • Be aware of medication schedules and what the medication effects may be.
  • Be positive and supportive.
  • Introduce opportunities for free writing, journaling, or drawing to express feelings.
  • Monitor for signs of drug and alcohol use.
  • Monitor for signs of self-mutilation (e.g. cutting).
  • Monitor for signs of gang involvement.
  • Take any threats of suicide seriously; immediately report threats.


Medication can be prescribed to address symptoms of mood disorders, psychotic disorders, or anxiety disorders.